Once again, student protesters, this time at the University of Michigan, tried to prevent a speaker from bringing his right-of-center perspective to the university's campus. The event, hosted by the University of Michigan's College Republicans and the American Enterprise Institute Executive Council, had a rocky start as Charles Murray, a libertarian political scientist, was interrupted by the hecklers for 40 minutes before they decided to end their harassment and leave.
A few hours before the event, flyers were handed out to students in an attempt to keep the event peaceful and ensure everyone in attendance would be safe. The flyers stated that weapons, masks to conceal one's identity, ice picks, drugs, laser pointers, amongst other items were prohibited inside the auditorium. At the bottom, the flyers stated that all attendees and their belongings were subject to searches.
The protesters called Murray a racist, a sexist, a member of the KKK, shouted over him as he spoke, turned off the lights, and even projected the words "white supremacist" on a screen behind him. Protesters continued to shout over Murray even as he attempted to respond to some legitimate questions they asked.
In the video below, one protester is heard yelling, "... Republicans want to kill us! You, sir, are killing us!"
In response to the heckler, another student stands up and yells back, "Listen, I might disagree with him, but I want to hear what he says first!"
Though the protesters did move outside of the auditorium, it did not stop a field representative of the Leadership Institute from being assaulted. Campus Reform reports:
Leadership Institute Field Representative Nathan Berning was repeatedly confronted by protesters, explaining that he was simply attempting to document the protests.
After doggedly following Berning around in order to block his camera with their signs, one unknown protester snatched his phone and tossed it over a balcony.
After the 40 minutes of chaos inside the auditorium ended, Murray was able to speak to those who were willing to listen to him.
Ben Decatur, a senior and the Co-Chair of the American Enterprise Institute Executive Council at Michigan, offered the following statement to Townhall:
For the first half of Dr. Murray’s speech, protesters proceeded to sabotage the event by blaring music, shutting off the lights, and constantly yelling over our speaker. Due to these interruptions and a failure by university administrators to trigger the heckler's warning, many Michigan students missed out on a chance to hear from a scholar from one of the premier public policy think tanks in Washington D.C.
After the protesters stormed out, our event was able to proceed. Michigan students who came to the event to genuinely engage with our speaker were given the opportunity to do so. Students were able to listen to Dr. Murray firsthand and respectfully and frankly engage with him. That's how college should be.
Protests like these are now regular occurrences. For those who want to hear a speaker that's not left-of-center, this kind of behavior is expected. It is up to colleges and universities to step up to protect the freedom of speech of students and their speakers. A college administration cannot and should not give in to the heckler's veto. College campuses used to be places where students welcomed diversity of thought. Sadly, that is no longer the case.